Provision #437: 12 Balance Strategies

Laser Provision


Are you more balanced now than you were twelve weeks ago? I hope so, because during that time we have covered twelve vital strategies for achieving Work / Life Balance. If you missed a week or two, “Don’t worry! Be Happy!” This Provision summaries them all. Put them into practice for better balance all the way around.

LifeTrek Provision


When it comes to Work / Life Balance, the decisions we make and the actions we take can mean the difference between success and failure. Molly Ivins reminded us of the adage regarding the first rule of holes: “When you are in one, stop digging.” And that is how we started our journey twelve weeks ago.

1. Stop Digging. Given the rapid changes in society and technology, it’s understandable that some of our mindsets are now out of date. Simply put, some of our behaviours no longer match our beliefs. 

Women working, but still taking on the bulk of domestic duties, is an example. Thinking we can get all of our work done, before playing, is another. Life has accelerated and changed. There is hope for Work / Life Balance, but first our mindsets must catch up with the world around us. To do this we must STOP: Step back, Think, and Organize our thoughts before Proceeding. We must STOP expecting what doesn’t work to magically start working. We can then open ourselves to new ways of seeing, thinking, and feeling about situations. 

2. Name Our Claim. To achieve Work / Life Balance we must know what we want in order to ask for it. Since we typically receive only what we ask for, it is our job to become urgent about naming our claim and being specific about it. Naming the wrong claim can leave us working our entire lives for things we really don’t want, and perhaps completely missing out on things we do want as time passes by.

Actively naming our claim connects us with passion for the things we want to have, be, and do. And having passion leads to a sense of balance, meaning, and satisfaction. One way to start is to simply follow our interests without any regard for how much money they can make, or how good we are at them. If they inspire us, or even anger us, we can continue following them out into the world. The Live-8 concert Click is a great example of finding passion by following anger at injustice. 

Being realistic is important when naming our claim. Even with major goals, it’s important to identify smaller, specific chunks that are both achievable and satisfying. 

3. Balance Our Ballast. One thing that frees up our resources and makes room for our claims is the skill of clearing clutter and balancing ballast. In the course of our busy lives many of our personal tasks, responsibilities, goals, and aspirations are placed on the backburner. These things turn into clutter and unfinished business that weighs us down. The longer unfinished business hangs around, the heavier it becomes. 

By unburdening ourselves of unnecessary weight, we give ourselves the room and resources to rise to our goals. Clearing our clutter, whether it is physical, mental, or emotional, can clear our heads and energise our bodies. It may be a little scary, but if we start small we are on our way to balance. Scheduling some time today is a great way to get started.

4. Balance “Yes” With “No”. Balancing “Yes” with “No” is a key skill in deciding what to take on and what to get rid of. We do it often because every time we say “Yes” to one thing we automatically say “No” to something else. Balancing “Yes” with “No” is a simple form of setting boundaries to protect our performance and manage ourselves, so we can be there for ourselves and others. 

In today’s rapidly changing world, full of competing demands and desires, flexibility is important. I have worked with people in the USA and Australia who would excuse themselves from a meeting at 3pm to go see their son play soccer. The next week those same people would willingly travel away from home on business, working long hours and going without seeing their children. These people were actively balancing “Yes” with “No” across the people and areas of their lives that matter.

Balancing “Yes” with “No” can be difficult at times. People will resist our efforts, but we owe it to ourselves to learn how to do this. And with practice, it gets easier. Saying “No” gives meaning and respect to our “Yeses.” Saying “Yes” gives support and strength to our “No’s.”

5. Balance Our Energy. Balancing our energy is a crucial decision that affects our Work / Life Balance. For sustained performance, we must balance our energy the same way professional athletes do. In sport, stress can generate results but only if it is followed by recovery. By implementing a rhythm that alternates us between stress and recovery, we balance our energy for maximum return. If we break the journey down into multiple legs with defined rest stops, we can enjoy the both achievements along the way and the relaxing rest at those stops. Doing this helps us to operate at our peak physical, mental, and emotional levels more often. 

We can start this by doing the basic things we already know, like choosing to eat well, maintaining good sleep patterns, taking regular breaks every 90 minutes, keeping fit, and enjoying both our work and leisure time. Regardless of how “important” our role in life is, giving ourselves permission to renew our energy leads to sustainable satisfaction and performance.

6. Choose Our Speed. Being stuck in fast forward is a big energy drainer that slowly lowers our level of performance. We live in a society that is obsessed with speed. Choosing to go fast all the time is not sustainable. Sometimes we even choose to go fast for no good reason. We multi-task and multi-people, as we simultaneously speak on the phone, scan our email and read a note that someone pushes under our nose. 

We are overstimulated, suffering from what Linda Stone calls “Continuous Partial Attention.” We are left feeling foggy, stressed, overwhelmed, and unsatisfied. Time management gurus assist us to learn how to go faster and faster, but this leads to the phenomenon of time-sickness and overwhelm. Instead, we can choose our speed when and where it makes sense.

Some things cannot be rushed, like time with our children, important client meetings, or work that requires our concentration and creativity. Giving people our full attention will become the new competitive differentiator. Being afraid we will miss something makes us hurry. But hurrying all the time leads us straight to what we fear most: missing out on life and its opportunities. 

How do we start? Bring back the first thing that was lost in the rush • take occasional breaks. At work, find moments to unplug from the technology in order to take some uninterrupted think time. Away from the office, resist the temptation to be reachable all the time. Review how many things at work and at play you are taking on and whether they are absolutely required. Ultimately, it’s about choosing to work at the “right” speed on the right task.

7. Design Our Environments. Designing our environments is a great way to automate and remove a lot of effort. Our environments include many things like personal habits, relationships, physical environments like our home, office, and technology, as well as our habitual ways of thinking, feeling, and doing things. Almost anything that we interact with is an environment that can be designed to work for us. We are natural environmental designers who respond automatically to the environments that surround us.

Designed environments bolster the new changes we make to achieve Work / Life Balance. We can craft our environments so they continue to craft us. This is the key to creating repeatable and consistent performance. After we design and redesign environments to work best for us, we need to surrender to them and let them work for us.

8. Reach For Enough. Working toward and enjoying success is something we all want, but how will we know when we have reached success? First we must have our own definition of “enough.” Reaching for “enough” is reaching for our definition of success across the range of our needs, not just one need. 

Limitless ideas of success are hard to reach and set us up for failure. Achieving success on our terms requires us to sharpen our idea of what we are aiming for. Instead of trying to have it all and do it all, we aim for what is “enough” to satisfy our needs. When we go beyond what is “enough,” we waste our passion, energy, and enjoyment at the expense of our other needs. 

Reaching for “enough” is not just about defining quantity. It must define the quality of the content we are aiming for. Using “enough” as our game plan, someone may surpass us on one dimension, but having a multidimensional strategy assures us we are working on reaching our definition of success. Knowing this, we accept and even welcome it when our performance goes up or down in one area while we attend to other needs.

9. Set A Strategy. To reach enough, we need a map to follow • a strategy map that we can draw for ourselves. We start drawing it by assessing where we are now and which direction we are headed. We can then validate our assessment by applying a 360 approach that asks for input from our friends and family. 

Our map must address our needs and wants. Using the SMART goal method (goals that areSpecific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Time-bound) is a great way to sketch this out.

When we start to follow the map, flexibility is important. As is being realistic and allowing periods of natural focus when required. We cannot outsource our strategy for Work / Life Balance. And why would we want to?

10. Take One Step. Taking the first step can seem like crossing a huge gap unless we find a stepping stone. Bridging the gap with a stepping stone takes realising that we are the only one who can choose the right stepping stone, and we are the only one who can take that one step. No one can take it for us. Others may walk beside us or even walk ahead of us to show the way, but no one can force us. Only we can take that one step onto our stepping stone.

There are many ways to find and take that first step. Being willing to make small changes, try experiments, and be open to possibilities are ways to start crossing the gap.

11. Practice Inner Balance. Being in balance on the outside is not sustainable until we find balance on the inside. Inner balance is our source of clarity and wisdom. It is our spiritual intelligence (SQ) • the balance of both mind and soul. It is what we need when we are overwhelmed or unable to think clearly, when the mind is dominating most of the balance. 

How do we tell if we are out of balance on the inside? We are stuck in our thinking. The kind of thinking that “lowers our spirits” and leaves us feeling worse than before we started.

How can we practice inner balance? Spiritual teachers and psychology professors have the same message: by detaching from our errant thoughts, the ones that run off without us asking them to. Instead we can watch them go by, take a breath or refocusing our mind on the task at hand by bringing it into the present moment instead of letting it worry about the past or future.

There are no exceptions. When the stakes are high, getting back into balance is the best thing we can do. Where would you rather solve a high-stakes problem from: Thinking that leaves you feeling confused and worse off, or from a state of clarity and wisdom?

12. Aim Our Attitude. Our ability to aim our attitude may be our most valuable capacity of all. We must aim our attitude in the right direction if we hope to get where we want to go. Like the attitude of an aircraft, our attitude will determine if we are going up, down, away from, or toward our destination. Set in the wrong direction we can easily find ourselves heading toward something worse.

Our attitude is either helping us or hindering us. While we are not usually responsible for life’s changing conditions, we are always responsible for how we respond to those conditions in the present moment. 

We first aim our attitude and then it aims us. As Herm Albright reminds us: “A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.”

I have enjoyed the opportunity to share these Provisions with you over the past 12 weeks. Best wishes for your ongoing Work / Life Balance journey. Bon Voyage! Write me a postcard or emailand let me know about your travels • Mike Alafaci. Brisbane, Australia

Coaching Inquiries: How could you put these ideas to work each day? How could you move from being entertained by them, to being transformed by them? Who could help you? What would you do first?

This Provision, and each Provision in our series on Work / Life Balance, is written by Michael J. Alafaci of www.SolutionMaps.com • Copyright Solution Maps 2005. All rights reserved. You can contact Mike by email or phone, in Australia, at 61-7-3311-5361.

If you or your company would like to talk with LifeTrek about coaching, Email Us or use theContact Form at our Website to arrange a complimentary conversation.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, Email Bob or use our online Feedback Form.


Thanks for tipping folks off to the Enneagram in Coaching Special Interest Group. I recommend you to others as well, advising them that yours is the single newsletter in the Coaching community that I read every week.


I loved the Provision on “Aim Your Attitude.” It reminded me of when my daughter was little and we’d want to get her excited about going for a walk along the river. Taking a walk or taking a hike could never get her going. We started saying “let’s go on an explore.” Explore meant not just walking (work) but stopping, poking around in the dirt, picking up rocks and leaves and snakes (fun). “Explore” aimed her attitude.


Thank you very much for the last Provision, “Aim Your Attitude.” Mike has definitely worked towards an apotheosis in these Provisions. The metaphor of the airplane rudder has been a piece of the puzzle I have been looking for for quite a while. And all of a sudden, there you provided it. Thanks.


I like your thoughts on Healthy Treats. As you probably know, I coach a marathon training program for the American Stroke Association. I send out a weekly newsletter to them with an article on training, injury prevention, nutrition, etc. Would it be OK if I were to send out a copy of your article in my newsletter? I’ll certainly refer to the source. (Ed. Note: Absolutely! You may want to include a link to our entire archive of Wellness Pathways. Click Thanks.) 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #436: Aim Your Attitude

Laser Provision


If you haven’t figured it out by now, we’ll let you in on a little secret: no one is going to force you to get more Work / Life Balance. No one is going to tell you to take more time off, to spend more quality time with your family, or to be less productive. No one is going to let up on their expectations for you, even when they see you being run ragged. Only you can make the shift. Don’t wait for a medical emergency! Adjust your attitude before it’s too late for life.

LifeTrek Provision


As we come to the end of our series on Work / Life Balance, let’s settle in for a bit of light-hearted fun. Over the last eleven weeks, our journey has been filled with images of hot air balloons to give us lift, fast cars for speed, autopilot features to automate our environments, and map making skills that show us the way. Our final traveling instrument is the rudder. 

A boat without a rudder is lost at sea. It is aimless. Weather conditions and water currents will aim our boat any which way, with no guarantee it will be the way we want to go. To aim our way, we must set our rudder in the right direction.

So too when it comes to Work / Life Balance, where the rudder is a matter of attitude. We must aim our attitude in the right direction if we hope to get where we want to go. Like the attitude of an aircraft, our attitude will determine if we are going up, down, away from, or toward our destination. Set in the wrong direction we can easily find ourselves heading toward something worse. 

Attitude is such an important and fundamental concept that we have even invented a term for aiming our attitude. We call it an “attitude adjustment.” This is not only something we do to correct our attitude; it is something we do to set our attitude before we take off. We first aim our attitude and then it aims us. Once we are moving, we continue to aim, or to adjust, our attitude forever. 

Along the way, I have seen people make some pretty disastrous errors in judgement based on a poor attitude that was aiming them. They have done things like quit too early, quit too late, or decide to do things out of a bad attitude that ended up hurting their Work / Life Balance. The truth is that we all have experience of this both at work and at home. There is no such thing as a perfect attitude, only one that can be aimed to either help or hinder us. 

Aiming our attitude begins with recognising the current attitude we are holding. One question will do it: “Is our current attitude adding to or taking from our passion, energy, and enjoyment?” Adjusting our attitude then becomes a matter of experimentation. Without sacrificing realism, we make minor adjustments to keep us on course and following our map. The key is in making minor adjustments, or small changes, and then watching the direction of our attitude change. 

Some of the world’s greatest minds, living and dead, have written about the importance of the attitude we hold. They used attitude to achieve the greatness they became known for. Imagine if we could get them in the same room for an interview. Well, for a bit of light-hearted fun here’s a make-believe conversation between some of these people. 

To create this conversation, I have culled through their writings and selected a few quotes on the subject of attitude. I felt like a movie editor, piecing together bits and splicing together scenes to create a new story even though the actors were never together and some of them not even alive at the same time. So let’s start with me throwing a question out to the group:

MIKE: Welcome everyone. I’d like to open the discussion on attitude by asking a general question: Does attitude really have a genuine impact on our Work and Life?

Colleen C. Barrett: “Work is either fun or drudgery. It depends on your attitude. I like fun.”

MIKE: So no matter •what’ we do, it’s •how’ we decide to be that can make it fun?

Abraham Lincoln: I believe that “People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Herm Albright: Yeah, Abe “A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.”

MIKE: I like your take on that, Herm. But what if things are more dire than that?

Viktor E. Frankl: Maybe I can add something here. “We who lived in the concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: The last of his freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Valerie Oberle (VP Disney University Guest Programs): “Heroic service does not come from policy manuals. It comes from people who care – and from a culture that encourages and models that attitude.”

MIKE: So we should encourage others to share in a culture of good attitudes?

Zig Ziglar: I agree, but “Life is too short to spend your precious time trying to convince a person who wants to live in gloom and doom otherwise. Give lifting that person your best shot, but don’t hang around long enough for his or her bad attitude to pull you down. Instead, surround yourself with optimistic people.”

MIKE: So aiming our attitude is our responsibility, not anyone else’s?

William James: “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind. As you think, so shall you be.”

Charles Swindoll: “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company…a church… a home. “

“The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

Randall D. Worley: Yes. “Maturity is not a matter of arteries; it’s a matter of attitude.”

MIKE: So if maturity is about attitude not age, then attitude must be something all ages can set their mind to.

Robert Collier: “You can be whatever you make up your mind to be.”

Paul Karasik: “Motivation is not a matter of will-power, it is a matter of want-power.”

MIKE: But how important is it to play an active role in our attitude?

Albert Einstein: How important? “Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.”

Earl Nightingale: Yes, and “We tend to live up to our expectations.” 

MIKE: Thank you everyone. Would anyone like to add a final thought in closing?

Ralph Waldo Emerson: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

MIKE: Thank you for being here and sharing your thoughts with us.

In closing, here’s a short-story called The Great Secret to finish our Work / Life Balance series:

The Creator gathered the animals together and said, “I want to hide something from the humans until they are ready for it. It is the realisation that they create their own reality.” The Eagle said, “Give it to me, I will take it to the moon.” The Creator said, “No. One day they will go there and find it.”

The Great White Shark said, “I will bury it on the bottom of the ocean, far beyond the Great Barrier Reef.” “No. They will go there too.” The American Buffalo said, “I will bury it on the Great Plains.” The Creator said, “They will cut into the skin of the Earth and find it even there.” Grandmother Mole, who lives in the breast of Mother Earth and who has no physical eyes but sees with spiritual eyes, said, “Put it inside of them.” And the Creator said, “It is done.”

So it is when it comes to aiming our attitude for Work / Life Balance. Have you looked within to find the rudder to steer you in the right direction? Try taking your attention, even briefly, away from the daily pressures to reflect on and actively create your ideal Work / Life Balance. When you are ready, consider enlisting the help of a friend, a coach, or another trusted person to help as you make adjustments along the way.

Our attitude is either helping us or hindering us. While we are not usually responsible for life’s changing conditions, we are always responsible for how we respond to those conditions in the present moment. The ability to aim our attitude is a valuable possession that is ours to use each and every day of our lives.

Coaching Inquiries: How often do you aim your attitude? When was the last time you aimed it before starting the engine? How long has it been since you adjusted your attitude toward Work and Life? How long has it been since you set your sights on Work / Life Balance?

This Provision, and each Provision in our series on Work / Life Balance, is written by Michael J. Alafaci of www.SolutionMaps.com • Copyright Solution Maps 2005. All rights reserved. You can contact Mike by email or phone, in Australia, at 61-7-3311-5361.

If you or your company would like to talk with LifeTrek about coaching, Email Us or use theContact Form at our Website to arrange a complimentary conversation.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, Email Bob or use our online Feedback Form.


Mike’s Provisions on Work / Life Balance have been very thoughtful and inspiring. I enjoy gaining some balance each week as I read them. Might I suggest a topic for a future provision? I’d like some help with decision-making. How do we harness the thought-process along with the spiritual/soul side of ourselves to make big decisions, such as whether or not to change career directions, move to a new community, marry a particular person, or have another child. I could use some wisdom on this. (Ed. Note: Thanks for the suggestion! That could make a great Provisions’ series in the future.) 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #435: Practice Inner Balance

Laser Provision


Some call it the head and the heart, others call it the left and right sides of the brain, still others call it intellect and instinct, mind and spirit, or ego and soul. Whatever you call it, one thing is clear: until we achieve balance on the inside we will never achieve balance on the outside. One way of doing that requires access to a new kind of intelligence, spiritual intelligence. Want to raise your SQ? Then this is one Provision you won’t want to skip over.

LifeTrek Provision


In the course of our busy lives it is easy to get out of balance on the inside. When we encounter issues and challenges in our Work / Life Balance, most of us respond by thinking. 

Sometimes we get caught up in our thinking. We worry about whether something will happen or not, or we struggle to untangle a knot of thoughts and feelings in our head. After a while, we start to feel worse than before we started. And what do most of us do when we get this way? We find ourselves thinking even harder. When this happens, we are out of balance on the inside. 

We can try balancing things on the outside, but if we are out of balance on the inside, it all comes undone. Learning to practice inner balance will generate sustainable, well-rounded balance. And it can be achieved in a second.

As we practice inner balance we get better at it and it serves us well. If we practice enough, it will serve us when the stakes are high. As a practicing student of inner balance, I hope to share with you a simple practice that changed my Work / Life balance and it can change yours too. 

So, what is inner balance? There are two sides to the story of inner balance: The practical, scientific side and the spiritual side. The spiritual side is the essence of inner balance and is a fun place to start because it begins with a story. But first, it is important to note that by spiritual we do not mean religious, we mean another form of intelligence. 

In addition to rational intelligence (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ), there is spiritual intelligence (SQ). This issue does not explain SQ, but it does explain how to access our SQ through the practice of inner balance.

The wonderful story by Ram Dass in The Pilgrimage of Awareness illustrates the two star players of inner balance. They are our mind and spirit, sometimes referred to as our ego and soul. Here is the story:

“There is a horse-drawn carriage, he said, the kind with a driver up on top. The driver, who has been guiding the carriage all throughout a long trip, gets to thinking that the carriage belongs to him. Suddenly the person inside the carriage knocks his cane against the roof and says, ‘Stop here.’ The driver says, ‘Who do you think you are?’ The Man answers, ‘I own this carriage.’ But the driver says, ‘Don’t be silly • this is my carriage.’ The driver, the ego, has been having too much fun guiding the carriage to surrender control to the real owner, the soul. But once the soul has awakened and established its control, the ego can begin to play its role as a wonderful servant.”

Inner balance becomes possible when we learn that our mind is a wonderful servant to be used in balance with our spirit. Eckhart Tolle, the author of The Power of Now, explains that the mind is a superb instrument if used rightly, but that we often don’t use it at all because it often uses us. Instead of us using the mind to learn a new skill or solve a problem, too often it uses us to rush around or worry for no reason.

Inner balance viewed from a practical, scientific side is illustrated well by Dr. Richard Carlson in his book Stop Thinking and Start Living. Dr. Carlson explains that our thought system’s job is to think, compare, contrast, and analyse. It is always trying to improve things for us. It does this by comparing us with others, analysing how we can make things better and then checking if we have done so.

Dr. Carlson observes that the operating guidelines of our thought system are inconsistent with happiness, enjoyment, and balance. Once the mind’s conditions for being balanced or happy are met, its job is to start all over again to create new conditions that must be met. If the mind was in control all the time, we would be doomed to a life of frustration and anxiety!

How do we tell if we are out of balance? We are stuck in our thinking. The kind of thinking that “lowers our spirits” and leaves us feeling worse than before we started. Another way to tell is through our feelings and emotions. They are an accurate guide to how we are thinking. Feeling irritated, afraid, angry, confused, or overwhelmed is a good indication to being out of balance. These kinds of emotions are valid and need to be acknowledged. But beyond that, they offer a clear signal to remove control from our servant to restore balance. 

Your practice can begin by noticing how often at work and home your thoughts take you out of balance and into stress, doubt, fear, confusion, and so on. Regardless of whether our emotional mind or rational mind causes the imbalance, our errant servant will be found running our thoughts again! 

And when this happens, we lose access to our source of wisdom, creativity, and greater intelligence. This is the source of those “Aha!” moments, the source of finding the right action at the right time and knowing how to take it.

How can we practice inner balance? Spiritual teachers and psychology professors have the same message: by detaching from our errant thoughts, the ones that run off without us asking them to. 

This is done by becoming aware of our current thoughts and then watching them go by without making any judgement. Or, as Dr. Carlson suggests, we can refuse to follow our negative thoughts by choosing to acknowledge them and then to dismiss them. Instead of fighting our thoughts, we let them drift away. Becoming aware of our ability to do this is all we need to begin practicing inner balance.

Inner balance is not something we have to learn how to do. We already do it, at least some of the time. A friend of mine finds that he can create inner balance on the golf course. Off the golf course he gets caught up in his thinking, but on the golf course his mind is still unless he is intentionally calculating a strategy. Otherwise, he is clear-headed, free of anxiety and no longer feels driven by his thoughts. He already has the ability to practice inner balance. 

But how do we practice inner balance on demand? There are many ways, but the best way is the one that works for us. Here are two good examples to get started: Because the mind is always occupied with something in the past or the future, Tolle suggests we use the power of now to bring intense attention into our thought or emotion. He suggests that balance will be restored when we do this without applying judgement. Dr. Carlson suggests something similar by saying we do not need to be afraid of our thoughts, but can choose to watch them go by.

Another way to practice inner balance is to take our attention out of our head and down into our body. We can do this by simply taking a nice, long deep breath — the kind that goes deep into our belly. It may sound like yoga or meditation, and maybe it is in a portable way, but giving it a go without thinking about it or judging it is cheaper than going to an executive retreat for a month after experiencing corporate burnout!

As you read this, your mind may be dismissing inner balance as an overly simple form of denial. Or, even if it seems feasible, your mind may wonder how this would work when the stakes are high. How could we not think, at times of high risk and high stakes? 

The answer is: There are no exceptions. Any thinking that leaves us feeling worse is thinking that is taking us out of balance. When the stakes are high, getting back into balance is the best thing we can do. Where would you rather solve a high-stakes problem from: Thinking that leaves you feeling confused and worse off, or from a state of clarity and wisdom? 

Inner balance is not denial. It is a choice to acknowledge but not to dwell on thinking that leads to problems. It is the wisdom to use thought as a great servant, but not be used by it. This wisdom is realised by exercising the courage to trust our inner balance to find the right answer or action. Remember, inner balance is the engagement of both mind and spirit in balance.

Having our intentions set while letting go of compulsive thinking is what spiritual teachings call detachment. Deepak Chopra identifies detachment as one of the Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. He explains that we don’t have to let go of our intention. We don’t have to let go of our desire. But we do have to let go of our attachment to the result. The mind’s obsessive thinking creates our attachment to the result. And it comes at the cost of fear and insecurity.

So if success means detachment, then we have to get comfortable with uncertainty and the unknown. Chopra explains that the known is actually our past (our memories, and conditioning). And our past is by nature in a state of decay. Real opportunity and possibility lies in the unknown. Chopra suggests that if we relinquish our attachment to the known, we have engaged the wisdom of uncertainty. 

The bottom line, as Chopra writes, is “that in every moment of your life, you will have excitement, adventure, and mystery. You will experience the fun of life • the magic, the celebration, the exhilaration, and the exultation of your own spirit.”

Practicing inner balance is a great form of self-maintenance, and maybe even self-mastery. It is a choice we make on a daily, hourly, and moment-by-moment basis. It is an experience not a thought, a practice not a theory. It is a choice to be a certain way for no good reason, because having no good reason is beyond the mind’s comprehension. 

Coaching Inquiries: When have you experienced inner balance? Which thoughts can you easily choose not to follow? Which ones challenge you? How could you practice inner balance regularly? What ideas could you come up with to shift yourself from being out of balance to being in balance?

This Provision, and each Provision in our series on Work / Life Balance, is written by Michael J. Alafaci of www.SolutionMaps.com • Copyright Solution Maps 2005. All rights reserved. You can contact Mike by email or phone, in Australia, at 61-7-3311-5361.

If you or your company would like to talk with LifeTrek about coaching, Email Us or use theContact Form at our Website to arrange a complimentary conversation.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, Email Bob or use our online Feedback Form.


I am writing to say a very big personal thank you for the excellent Provisions that I look forward to receiving every week. I have been on a personal journey back to my light over the past 18 months, brought about by the “smack around the head” of divorce after a 23 year marriage.

So much of the content of your publication is so true to me personally that it is remarkable. It’s like having a personal e-mail weekly from my inner self, if you can understand that. The email is like a confirmation of my growth forward to my new future, amazing. Please keep going with your excellent newsletter and I thank you most deeply for it’s help, God bless you.


Mike’s last Provision was well written, and so true. Thanks.



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #434: Take One Step

Laser Provision


What does it take to move you to action? In some ways, that is the heart of coaching. People hire coaches because they want to get into gear. They want to move forward with their hopes and dreams, their plans and priorities, their values and commitments. If you are not moving forward as you would like, if you are procrastinating, agonising, or fearing the worst, then perhaps it’s time to take just one step. Read on if you want to learn how.

LifeTrek Provision


Once we know what we want in Work / Life Balance, we begin to experience a gap. There is a gap between where we are now and where we want to be. There may be a gap in things like how much money, time or happiness we have. These things lie just on the other side of the gap. Knowing what to do and feeling good about doing it, can be our biggest challenge in crossing the gap. 

We may be torn between enjoying our success and work, and wanting to spend more time with our family. We may be torn between wanting to change careers and not knowing how, so we remain where we are. Being torn between two things is a central challenge in Work / Life Balance. 

The truth is that we all struggle to cross the gap sometimes. We all experience being torn between two things. And sometimes no matter how much we want to or need to move forward, we are unable to. Sometimes the gap is too large to cross for risk of falling into it.

In this issue, we stand at the edge of the gap and ponder ways of bridging the gap. Our goal is to explore ways to find a bridge that will allow us to take one first step that is right for us. This step is not a running jump over our gap. Instead, it is finding a stepping stone and taking one step onto it. 

To do this, we have to buy into two crucial ideas: Idea #1: We are the only one who can choose the right stepping stone, and Idea #2: We are the only one who can take that one step. No one can take it for us. Others may walk beside us or even walk ahead of us to show the way, but no one can force us. Only we can take that one step onto our stepping stone.

So, how do we know when we have found a stepping stone? It feels like one of those “Aha!” moments. There is a physical release of energy, a sense of relief, followed by an exciting desire to move forward. There may still be some doubt, but there is enough excitement and energy to try it.

To get closer to that exciting desire to move forward, we need to start by changing something. As the old saying goes, “If nothing changes, nothing changes.” The great news is that it doesn’t matter what changes. Our lives are like interconnected systems. Changing one thing in the system causes the whole system to change. Like changing a cog in an engine system, more fuel is burned, more stress is put on some parts and less on others. A cascade of changes occurs in the system. 

A change to the system doesn’t have to be huge. Rather than changing an entire step in the launch sequence of the space shuttle, just changing a piece of foam insulation can change the whole system of the space shuttle. It is the same with our lives. By changing just one thing, the system can never be the same. It must be different.

We can use the concept of changing the system in infinite ways to find our stepping stone. Maybe it is getting up earlier. Maybe it is reacting differently to a regular event. Perhaps it means wearing a different piece of clothing. It does not have to be huge. And it does not have to make complete sense. If it does, we compromise discovering something new and have effectively “fixed” the results.

The scientific process of discovering a stepping stone is to perform an experiment. We can use this approach with fantastic results. If we try an experiment and it doesn’t work, we measure, learn and try another experiment using the parts that worked. This is the difference between having a Perfection Mentality and having a Discovery Mentality. 

A Perfection Mentality is a win or lose mentality. Mistakes are not tolerated. Any action is either right or wrong. There is always blame, but little encouragement to learn what happened so we can take another chance. Many of us gravitate toward a Perfection Mentality because experience teaches us that many things don’t work out the first time. So we stick to what we know. And if we haven’t learned this for ourselves, the people around us try to protect us from failure. These experiences, if unquestioned by us, teach us not to risk it anymore. We stay stuck with what we know, even if it doesn’t work!

A Discovery Mentality is never stuck, because it never ends. There is no winning and losing, only winning and learning. With discovery, the pressure is off and we can’t help but learn. New learning takes us to new places and moves us forward. Discovery usually contains some fun and a sense of play. Discovery seeks to learn what works. It is not satisfied with the reasons why something cannot work, but is more interested in possibility. 

If you want to try a Discovery Mentality, try picturing a scorecard. Any scorecard will work, a Baseball Scorecard, Golf Scorecard, a Corporate Balanced Scorecard, or some other. What do all scorecards have in common? Most sports coaches take delight in reminding us that, “There is no room on the scorecard for a story!” I find this little truth sobering when I am complaining about a bad game of golf!

But if scorecards have no room for a story, then there is no room for trying to be perfect about how we get the score. As long as we observe the rules of the game, we can happily try different ways to get the ball in the hole. 

Tiger Woods sometimes chips with a 3-wood. Many people originally thought this was odd, but the first time he tried it in the 1996 U.S. Open he holed the shot. What happened? His experiment worked. Does he care if his experiment is judged as perfect? I don’t think so. He is after the result, the stepping stone that will bridge the gap between his current reputation and his future reputation in the record books. His search for new ways to get results is endless; his results speak for themselves. Regardless of Tiger’s so-called slumps, the record books, that are his scorecard, are trending toward greatness.

The important thing is to build on our strengths by taking small risks and finding what works. Then using that stepping stone to find the next until the gap is narrow enough to make the crossing.

When we let go of perfection and embrace discovery, we become open to the possibility of trying new ways and finding our stepping stones. But how do we recognise a stepping stone among all the static? We can use our inborn radar.

Our inborn radar is called our Reticular Activator System (RAS). Our RAS is the part of our brain that heightens our awareness of certain things. Do you remember the last time you bought a new car and started seeing cars just like yours everywhere you went? This is your RAS at work. And we can use it to find new ways to bridge the gap.

With our RAS tuned in, we start becoming receptive to Life’s messages. Life has a way of sending us messages until we listen. If we miss a message, Life will send it again. Each time the message is sent, the volume gets a little louder. Sometimes we miss Life’s messages for so long, we are whacked in the side of the head and forced to change. We experience this in many ways like health scares, job loss, marriage failure, and all kinds of opportunities that Life was trying send us. “Tuning in” is how we recognise the stepping stones when they appear. 

We “tune in” by getting clear about where we are and where we want to be. We can do this on our own, or with help. And when a stepping stone initially comes, it may be in the form of noticing a book, an article in a magazine, something someone says that is unrelated, or something deep inside that we already know. 

With our RAS tuned in, we must evaluate the stepping stones by using a simple technique to ponder them and find an “Aha!”. There are many techniques for “thinking through” things, and we all have our favourites.

One way is to use what’s called the Decisional Balance: two columns, “For” and “Against,” where we weigh up all of the good things and bad things about an idea. While doing this, it is possible to have an “Aha!” moment about the current idea or a completely different idea. Alternately, we may discard it and move on to the next idea.

When you are ready to search for your “Aha!” moment, try combining the ideas mentioned here. Get what you want in mind, be patient, and have some fun with these ideas:

  1. Set your intention. Give some thought to where you are and where you want to be (you may have done this throughout our series).
  2. Decide to change something small in your system
  3. Remove some pressure by trying a Discovery Mentality.
  4. Treat it as an experiment. Be open to possibility
    a. Write down things that don’t work (and stop doing them)
    b. Write down things that do work (and do them).
  5. Tune your RAS to receive Life’s messages.
  6. Evaluate the stepping stones using simple methods.
  7. Go back and try it again when you are ready. Give it some cycles.\

Crossing the gap is possible on our own. It can be challenging, but it is from within that we find the stepping stones to make the crossing. Sometimes we will need the professional help of a coach or other trusted person who will not “tell” us what we should do, but will walk beside us while we find our stepping stone on our own. The important thing is to be ready and then willing to take our one step.

Coaching Inquiries: Crossing the gap is about risk. When was the last time you took a small risk to improve your Work / Life Balance? How many messages have you missed lately? What could you change in your own system to experiment with results? How will you take one step?

This Provision, and each Provision in our series on Work / Life Balance, is written by Michael J. Alafaci of www.SolutionMaps.com • Copyright Solution Maps 2005. All rights reserved. You can contact Mike by email or phone, in Australia, at 61-7-3311-5361.

If you or your company would like to talk with LifeTrek about coaching, Email Us or use theContact Form at our Website to arrange a complimentary conversation.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, Email Bob or use our online Feedback Form.


You response to last week’s reader reply about podcasting LifeTrek Provisions • “What a terrific suggestion. Thanks! We’ll look into the logistics of making it happen in the near future.” • left a lot to be desired. “Making it happen”? What happed to those good German gutturals like “we’ll do it,” period! “Near future?” In the same issue with SMART goals! I’d have expected better. My take on “near future” could be translated “when pigs fly”! 

So here would be my answer: Terrific! We don’t know everything. We’ll have to learn about podcasting. If it makes sense, we’ll do it. Thanks for teaching us something. We can all learn for each other. 

BTW, I have replaced my commute time radio with podcasts of free talk live about political freedom and IT conversations about new ideas in various ways. I used this new technology to turn Quadrant IV time into Quadrant I. I now actually look forward to my commute as a learning time. 

Let me know, if you want me to babble on more about podcasting. Now, get back in there and keep giving good poop. We won’t dwell further on this one let down. 😉 (Ed. Note: You got me there! It does make sense and my SMART goal is to start podcasting at least some Provisions with the next series.)


Thanks a lot for all the good info and sharings!! 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #433: Set Your Strategy

Laser Provision


When it comes to going on a journey, it helps to have a map. We can, of course, wander around until we find our way. But a map improves our sense of direction and gives us a strategy to follow. It increases our courage to embark on the journey and our ability to control what happens along the way. This Provision explains how to set a strategy for Work / Life Balance.

LifeTrek Provision


Not having a current and viable strategy is one of the main reasons for never reaching our ideal Work / Life Balance. If you don’t have a current or viable strategy, don’t worry. In this issue we take a practical, easy and effective approach to developing a strategy that will work.

For our strategy to work, it must do two things: It must aim to meet the full depth of our needs, and it must span the width of all areas of our life.

Covering all the areas of our life is important because the different areas all impact and rely on each another. To illustrate this interaction, let’s pick two: Career and Personal Growth. For our career to prosper in the long-term, we must grow personally by updating our skills. As technology and business change, a new set of skills is required. By focusing on Career alone, we would eventually fall behind. The two areas directly impact each other and demand balance. So it is with all the areas.

To achieve a complete picture of balance, we apply an adaptation of the eight areas of life from the work of Laura Whitworth, Henry Kimsey-House and Phil Sandahl in Co-Active Coaching. Our eight areas of life are as follows:

  1. Career
  2. Money
  3. Health
  4. Friends & Community
  5. Family & Partner
  6. Personal Growth
  7. Fun & Recreation
  8. Physical Environment (one of our many designed environments)

These eight areas represent the ones that most people find essential to producing a sustainable Work / Life Balance. However, as Work / Life Balance is not a one-size-fits-all formula you may want to tailor these areas after doing this the first time.

To get started on mapping out your strategy, be sure to find a place that works well for you. It may be somewhere quiet and peaceful, or it may be better for you to work on it while you sit at your desk, on a plane, in the subway, or even in front of the TV! Wherever it is, it needs to be your map-making place.

Once you have found that place, here are three easy steps to get started. The first one takes around 10 minutes to sketch out.

STEP ONE: Assess the current situation, by scoring each of the eight areas. This is not a left-brain, scientific exercise. This exercise requires our right-brain creativity. We can tap into this by asking ourselves how we feel about each area, and then nominate a score out of ten for each area. Zero is the lowest and ten is the highest or best.

Next, we clarify the score by making an extremely important decision on whether each area is getting better or worse. Next to our score, we rank the area as either getting worse, by using a minus sign “-” , or getting better by using a plus sign “+”. There is no “staying the same” in our rapidly changing world. We must make a decision and rank it one way or the other.

This ranking is important because our Career area could score 10 out of 10 but because our skills are not staying updated, our Career area is actually trending for the worse. Our Family and Partner area may be 5 out of 10 but if we are now giving them our full attention or have quit neglecting them until we have succeeded in another area, then our Family and Partner area may be getting better.

To complete and validate our assessment of the current situation we can check it with a friend, family member, or co-worker. This is similar to the 360-degree assessment used by HR professionals. It will show us if we are missing anything and might challenge us to compare our perception against someone else’s. Because this is a creative, non-scientific, exercise, there is no right or wrong. It is important to base our assessment on the current situation, not how we want the situation to look in the future. Done properly, this exercise will produce a high-quality assessment to base our map on.

If you choose to do nothing else with your strategy other than to assess the current situation, the act of raising your awareness alone will help. If you want to play a lead role in meeting your needs, however, then it’s time for Step 2.

STEP 2: Name our needs and wants. This is the fun part. It is where we sharpen our aim at what will satisfy our Work / Life Balance. Here we aim for what is “enough” to satisfy our needs, nothing more and nothing less.

We start by turning our needs or wants into goals. A goal is another term for something we want to have, be or do. We either achieve it or not by a designated time. The SMART goal acronym is a great guide. A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Time-bound. Here’s an example: Save $2,000 by December 25th by depositing $200 each week into a reserve account at a financial institution.

Goals represent our top priorities in each life area. To determine these for each of the eight areas, ask yourself, “What is my top priority in this area right now?” Make sure it represents a need and want. Then turn it into SMART goal. If there is more than one priority in each area, list your top three.

Here’s a checklist for our goals.

Check 1: Our goals must be exciting. They must be a balance of “shoulds” and “wants.” If all of our goals look like “shoulds,” we won’t be motivated.

Check 2: Our goals must be failsafe. A trend in recent success literature has been to confuse exciting goals with huge unattainable goals. It’s okay to have great goals, but they must be broken down into achievable sizes. Sometimes we sabotage our efforts by setting goals that are too difficult to achieve. Breaking large goals into smaller, achievable goals is how successful organisations perform strategic planning. Our personal and professional goals will benefit from the same approach.

Check 3: Our goals must anticipate obstacles. Each goal will require us to say “Yes” to something while saying “No” to something else and vice versa. Deciding this upfront turns an obstacle into a goal. Saying “Yes” to tennis on Wednesdays, means saying “No” to coaching the soccer team this season. Making decisions about obstacles in advance can turn them into small goals that support bigger goals.

Check 4: Our goals must be free of hidden Celebrity Success Elements. The hallmark of Celebrity Success is a self-centeredness that aims at limitless, stardom. Living by Celebrity Success, we are the stars of our own limitless fantasy. We usually focus on only one area at the expense of all others. We don’t entertain the idea of peaks and troughs, only peaks that we never seem to reach. Celebrity Success leads us to eventual disappointment by pursuing unrealistic expectations with blind focus. Realistic goals become achievable goals. Remember the old adage: Success breeds success.

STEP 3: Take the controls. With the map drawn, we can embark on the journey by driving, steering and correcting our course as we go. We achieve balance as we take control along the route, not only as we arrive at a destination. Balance is a means and not an end. To borrow Dr. Wayne Dyer’s formula for happiness and apply it to achieving balance: There is no way to balance; balance is the way.

As we seek balance, we may encounter resistance from within. Our beliefs in one life area may prevent us from reaching a need in another area. If we hold the belief that, “To be successful at my job, I must work long hours and sacrifice time with my family,” then we will find it almost impossible to achieve a goal of spending more time with our family. This belief may be valid, but we may decide it doesn’t work for us anymore.

One way to overcome this is to shift our perspective. We can do this by viewing how one area impacts another. This will help us to see things in a different way. Any way is okay, as long as it is different. For example, family can feel like an obstacle to work, but it can be our most important goal in the bigger scheme of things. A different perspective shows how family can actually support our performance at work and validate it at the same time.

While we are at the controls, we must maintain momentum. Our multidimensional strategy does not defer goals until another stage of life because we are chasing the “maximum” in one area. This is the, “I’ll be happy when•” trap. While there are periods of natural focus in life, we can still satisfy our needs by sharing our passion, energy, and enjoyment across all areas in our lives.

Avoiding the “I’ll be happy when•” trap of deferring people and need in our life might be as easy as realising that Work / Life Balance is not a 50/50 split between work and family. If we aim for this kind of goal, we end up deferring to the most urgent thing all the time. By realising that our balance may be 80/20 or 30/70 during periods of focus, we can still find it satisfying. As life changes, so does our focus and strategy. Reviewing our strategy now and then keeps it fresh and keeps us focused on our needs.

Go ahead. Try it. Spend a few 10-minute cycles over the next week to work on your map and embark on your journey. It takes discipline and courage to define and follow our own strategy. We cannot outsource our strategy for Work / Life Balance. And why would we want to? How often have we admired the idea of dancing to the beat of our own drum? Having our own strategy, we can move from the idea to the reality of the dance.

Coaching Inquiries: What are your top priorities right now? Do they lead to a sense of satisfaction and balance? Which direction is each area of your life headed? What changes do you need to make to reach your ideal Work / Life Balance?

This Provision, and each Provision in our series on Work / Life Balance, is written by Michael J. Alafaci of www.SolutionMaps.com • Copyright Solution Maps 2005. All rights reserved. You can contact Mike by email or phone, in Australia, at 61-7-3311-5361.

If you or your company would like to talk with LifeTrek about coaching, Email Us or use theContact Form at our Website to arrange a complimentary conversation.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, Email Bob or use our online Feedback Form.


I think it is great that you have your material available on AvantGo. The next step is to get signed up for Podcasts. Folks who have iPods subscribe to audio podcasts that get updated like the information on AvantGo. The difference is that it is audio vs. text in nature. Just a thought. (Ed. Note: What a terrific suggestion. Thanks! We’ll look into the logistics of making it happen in the near future.) 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #432: Reach For Enough

Laser Provision


Work / Life Balance is a 360 affair. There are many variables to consider, all of which have to be kept in the air. This makes the project hard enough; it becomes impossible when we introduce extreme expectations into the mix. Without a clear idea of how much is enough when it comes to our needs and goals, we will always find ourselves tilting in one direction or another. Balance comes when we define and reach for our own brand of success.

LifeTrek Provision

We live in confusing times. In many ways, we have never had it so good. Yet, it is common to feel unsatisfied like something is missing. In today’s world of unlimited choices, it is easy to fall into a state of compulsive dissatisfaction always needing to do and have more. The result can be a Work / Life Balance that feels overextended and unsatisfying.

Most people gain a sense of satisfaction from achieving and enjoying their successes. But what, exactly, is our definition of success? Is it enough to satisfy us? And are we making the most of life as we reach for it?

In this issue, we consider reaching for the kind of success that meets our needs and provides us with ongoing satisfaction while in pursuit of success.

Achieving success on our terms requires us to sharpen our idea of what we are aiming for. Instead of trying to have it all and do it all, we aim for what is “enough” to satisfy our needs. When we go beyond what is “enough”, we waste our passion, energy, and enjoyment at the expense of our other needs.

The term “enough” has come to represent mediocrity, like saying “She only put in enough effort to get by.” When viewed this way, many of us (me included) are downright afraid of it. We fear that having “enough” means settling for less or losing our competitive edge and ambition. But what if we started to demand that our successes be “enough” to satisfy us?

Reaching for “enough” does not mean we should settle for mediocrity. It does not mean that we should settle for less or cut back our aspirations. Cutting back at work or home may only result in disconnecting us from our passions. High achievers don’t do that because it does not satisfy. Rather, they have a definition of “enough” across the range of their needs. Reaching real and deeply satisfying success in our work and life is reaching for “enough”.

“We are losing our capacity to define a reasoned sense of enough”, say Laura Nash and Howard Stevenson from the Harvard Business School. In their book Just Enough, Nash and Stevenson studied many high achievers to understand how satisfying success is created.

Their study selected high achievers who had reached success on scores that most of us keep. However, the high achievers also had to hold multiple goals driven by various emotional needs, like the rest of us, so they were not people who gave up family for the sake of a career. Instead, they chose talented people who work hard and also have a life.

Apart from being high achievers, these people demonstrated an ability to enjoy happiness and pleasure in their life; a desire to contribute to something besides themselves; the ability to display a sense of humanity by valuing the worth of others; and the perseverance to sustain these qualities for the long-term.

Nash and Stevenson studied people like the CEO who genuinely wanted to improve some social condition, to contribute to the wellbeing and success of her workers, while also improving her own power and fortune. They also chose schoolteachers, artists, and many people who fit this balanced approach.

One myth the high achievers immediately debunked was that the success is “only” about Winning Big. This limited criteria for success ignores the fact that people and organisations have multiple needs. A company that places profit as the only criteria for success fails to grow. Executives who place power and money as their only criteria eventually feel empty. Stay-at-home parents who limit their criteria to family service alone may feel that their other needs are not satisfied.

The high achievers shared the ability to be realistic. They had developed a skill for knowing which limits to break and which to accept, so they could reach success and satisfaction sooner. They avoided modeling their success on the highly published Celebrity Successes that flood our success literature.

Nash and Stevenson say that our success literature is letting us down because of its obsession with Celebrity Success Thinking. This kind of thinking, while extremely popular, is flawed. It is cheating us out of the satisfaction we deserve.

Celebrity Success Thinking fails to satisfy because it relies on stories of limit-busting, maximised performance. If we base our success on these, sometimes questionable, performances, the score only starts counting at the limits of maximum achievement. This leaves many organisations and individuals with a large territory for failure before achieving any sense of success. Nash and Stevenson provide a welcome reality check by saying, “It’s easy to feel stupid when you compare yourself to the celebrity successes.”

So how do we move away from a mentality of limitless Maximisation and Celebrity Success without dropping out?

The answer is in finding our definition of “enough”, and only we can do that. But before we can, we need to debunk Maximisation because there is no maximum, there is always “more”. Blindly raising the bar without limits makes us inflexible by pursuing some targets long after it makes sense to do so. Next, we need to ditch the idea of Celebrity Success (even in small forms) because it is not “enough” to satisfy us. Instead, we can define and reach for what is “enough” to satisfy our many needs.

So, how do we know if we are following our definition of “enough” or someone else’s? The answer is in how we feel when we reach a success goal. If it is enough, we will feel deep and lasting satisfaction. If it is never enough, we will soon start to feel empty again. We may then blame that empty feeling on not having enough, when we really have the wrong idea of “enough”.

Say, for example, we finally buy that speedboat but, before long, our satisfaction fades into a feeling of emptiness. If this happens, perhaps we were not following our definition of “enough” in the first place. Knowing the difference can save us a lot of time, money, and lost opportunity to enjoy satisfaction.

Reaching for “enough” is not just about defining quantity. It must define the quality of the content we are aiming for. When we define both content and quantity, we become clear on exactly what we want and how much of it is required to satisfy us. This is how “enough” can expand our satisfaction without needing to have or do it all, or to always go for the max.

Using “enough” as our game plan, someone may surpass us on one dimension, but having a multidimensional strategy assures us we are working on reaching our definition of success. Knowing this, we accept and even welcome it when our performance goes up or down in one area while we attend to other needs. It’s the big picture versus the small picture, the big win that doesn’t really satisfy versus the many wins that really do satisfy.

For example, our income may drop while we re-skill ourselves or decide to raise a family, or it may rise while we seize an opportunity to get ahead, or we may spend less while we channel extra income into our retirement. Is all of this normal? Absolutely! Will there be consequences? Of course! Handling them is part of managing our Work / Life Balance with a reasoned sense of “enough”.

To satisfy and enjoy our ideal Work / Life Balance, we cannot simply go for the extremes of an oversimplified, single dimension life, or one where everything is maximised in celebrity fashion. Being an ideal dad, a great husband, and a celebrity executive is a tough (if not impossible) task and always has been. Giving everything to only one goal and expecting complete satisfaction is just as difficult.

We have multiple needs that demand regular satisfaction. By defining “enough” right across the range of our needs and goals, we avoid neglecting any of them. We set ourselves up to reach our own brand of success. From there we can build on success and switch to the next need.

We will only ever have “enough” when we decide what “enough” is. And it will only ever be “enough” if it addresses all of our needs. Pursuing our own definition of success takes vision, confidence and commitment. We will build on this in our next issue as we experiment with setting our strategy for our Work / Life Balance.

Coaching Inquiries: What exactly is your sense of enough? What will it take for you to be satisfied? Is it reachable, or does it have hidden celebrity elements? How could you begin to define “enough” across the needs, areas and people in your life that matter?

This Provision, and each Provision in our series on Work / Life Balance, is written by Michael J. Alafaci of www.SolutionMaps.com • Copyright Solution Maps 2005. All rights reserved. You can contact Mike by email or phone, in Australia, at 61-7-3311-5361.

If you or your company would like to talk with LifeTrek about coaching, Email Us or use theContact Form at our Website to arrange a complimentary conversation.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, Email Bob or use our online Feedback Form.


I have to tell you I am really impressed by the whole series on Work / Life Balance. It often seems like you are looking at my life when writing and I am guessing many others are thinking the same thing. I am challenged to enact the ideas you promote. I feel I have been making progress over the last year in this regard and your articles help keep me focused.


I have been reading our Provisions for a while now and I love them. Thanks!



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #431: Design Your Environments

Laser Provision


How hard is it for you to maintain Work / Life Balance? If the answer is, “Very hard!” then perhaps you have not enlisted the support of your environments. At their best, environments can make Work / Life Balance an effortless thing to accomplish and to maintain. At their worst, they can make it virtually impossible. So why not design your environments to support your best efforts and to be your best self? This Provision shows you how to get started.

LifeTrek Provision

Too many people work way too hard to get what they want out of life. By relying primarily on effort and willpower, they end up having to carry the ball all by themselves. Until, of course, they end up dropping the ball. To achieve Work / Life Balance over the long term, the secret is to design our environments in order to minimise how much effort, struggle, and willpower it takes to get what we want.

Great environments are like the autopilot feature in an airplane. They maintain our speed and keep us on course, even when we aren’t looking. Bad environments require our constant time and effort. Without constant vigilance, bad environments will lead to a crash landing, every time.

Fortunately, once we understand the nature and power of our environments, it becomes easy to design them accordingly. Our environments include many things like personal habits, relationships, physical environments like our home, office, and technology, as well as our ways of thinking, feeling and doing things. Almost anything that we interact with is an environment that can be designed to work for us.

Dave Buck, Head Coach and CEO of CoachVille, explains that humans are very adaptable and quickly become just like the environments they are in. We humans are also natural environmental designers, creating environments that reflect who we are. Drawing on leading-edge ideas from CoachVille’s Schools of Coaching, let’s explore how designing environments can immediately benefit our Work / Life Balance.

As we make changes on the inside with our Work / Life Balance, it is necessary to make changes to our environment that reflect the new us. Dave Buck says that if we don’t do this, the existing environment that created the “old you” will pull us back to the way we were. This is why going to a workshop rarely results in lasting change. Our new learning doesn’t stand a chance against the existing environment.

The key is to craft environments that craft us and bolster our intentions. When we intentionally design our environments to support us, we remove much of the willpower, thinking, and stress from everyday tasks and events. Instead, we create repeatable and consistent performance.

I learned this many years ago while attending a business seminar. The speaker challenged the audience to guess correctly how long it takes to cook McDonald’s Fries. Some people guessed and some even insisted that they knew the answer, “3 minutes,” they shouted. “No it’s 4 minutes and 30 seconds, five minutes” and so on. The correct answer was: “Who cares? A buzzer goes off and you know they are cooked.” This simple system is the essence of a well-designed environment.

We are often the product of our environments. Sales and Marketing experts understand this dynamic. They seek to create environments for us to interact with all the time. They certainly understand how to manipulate my love of chocolate. To get in better shape, I recently promised myself I would eat less chocolate. But as each week rolled by, no matter how hard I tried, my willpower eventually caved in. I was baffled for a while, until I considered my environment. I had clearly “bought in” to the messages of the Sales and Marketing professionals.

They had led me to believe that if I bought in bulk I would save money. And, indeed, on a per item basis the savings are considerable. But by filling my environment with chocolate, by creating a chocolate-rich environment, I slowly started to eat more and more, simply because it was there. The environment was crafting my behaviour. As I ate more I ended up spending more than ever before. And all the while I thought I was actually saving money!

Luckily, designing a new environment was simple once I recognised the dynamic: only buy chocolate in quantities I will consume that day. This simple practice led to an environment that required no further thinking or willpower on my part, just a commitment to respond to and be crafted by it. After a while, I couldn’t be bothered with having to go out to get chocolate every time I wanted some. The result? I happily ate less chocolate and spent less money.

This approach might or might not work for you. But everyone can design environments that minimize our reliance on effort, struggle, and willpower to achieve Work / Life Balance. Such environments will inspire rather than drain, will be sustainable, will not depend on us to keep them going, will support our goals and needs, and will reduce the need to think or push hard.

If you design an environment and it doesn’t quite work, continue to reengineer it through a process of trial and correction. When our needs change, we can update our environments. Such deliberate environmental modification causes us to ask different questions and to take different actions as we seek to achieve our goals and wants with less effort and stress. By removing unnecessary effort, we are freed up to enjoy ourselves more. The key is to be willing to rely on and respond to our environments.

Let’s design a make-believe environment as an example. How about a general Work / Life Balance goal around health and fitness? Say you have decided to start riding your bicycle each night, but are finding it difficult to do so on a regular basis. You start to assess and redesign your environment and find that it is failing because work sometimes runs overtime, eating into your riding time.

Your first redesign is to switch to riding in the mornings. You try this but still don’t get onto your bicycle. Why? Too much willpower and not enough environmental design. What is wrong? You look at where your bicycle lives each day • it’s stuck at the back of the garage behind some boxes and is hard to get at!

So, you put your bicycle by the front door, with your shoes and house keys ready to go each morning. In addition, you might create another environment to support your bicycle environment: you commit to meet a riding friend each morning at an agreed time. Finally, you decide to have the post office hold your mail so you can pick it up each morning on the final leg of your ride. Now your environment really starts to work for you and become fun. Your only decision is to commit to rely on and respond to it as a way for you to socialise, get your mail, and stay fit.

This is a simple, generic example. Imagine what you can do on your own, or with a professional coach, tailoring environments to meet your needs! Each and every one of us is a natural environmental designer and we inevitably respond to our environments.

Being deliberate with our environments creates exciting and endless benefits in our Work / Life Balance. We can design environments to make technology work for us instead of against us, generating more family time, more down time, or more productivity.

We can design environments to balance our energy, lower our stress, improve our relationships, and perform at a higher level. We could design an environment to remove fear, ignite our passion, or give us back some of that old-fashioned satisfaction in our Work / Life Balance. We can even design environments that improve our wealth similar to the way a large corporation does. The applications for designed environments are endless.

Designed environments reduce unnecessary effort and stress. They stimulate and develop us the more we simply surrender to them. Such environments remove a lot of the hard work, effort, struggle, and willpower to achieve both optimum performance and satisfying Work / Life Balance.

If you want to try this, start with the things that you are tolerating right now. Design an environment to support the outcomes you are seeking. Look for those things that are hindering your success and standing in the way of your Work / Life Balance. The goal is to have environments that are enjoyable and serve to launch you forward.

Coaching Inquiries: What environments are crafting you right now? Which environments are you struggling with right now? How could you re-craft them so they craft you toward your goals? Would you like help crafting a personally tailored environment?

This Provision, and each Provision in our series on Work / Life Balance, is written by Michael J. Alafaci of www.SolutionMaps.com • Copyright Solution Maps 2005. All rights reserved. You can contact Mike by email or phone, in Australia, at 61-7-3311-5361.

If you or your company would like to talk with LifeTrek about coaching, Email Us or use theContact Form at our Website to arrange a complimentary conversation.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, Email Bob or use our online Feedback Form..


Although I love receiving your newsletter, I rarely stop long enough to read them and have filed many anyway until there is time to do so. However, the article presented in your last Provision, “Choose Your Speed,” caused me to pause and read most of it. Mike Alafaci’s observations are, unfortunately, right on…a true state of affairs in my life. I’ll get the book to learn more, but your overview has really raised my awareness of the need to make some changes that I know will make a difference. Great work on the entire newsletter!


Mike’s Provision, “Choose Your Speed,” was probably the best writing I’ve seen on this topic. I really connected with it, and find it very useful in looking at my own life, as well as assisting others in looking at theirs. Thank you!


Thanks for another great newsletter. I just wanted to bring your attention to one thing. I believe the name of the Carl Honor•’s book is In Praise of Slowness. (Ed. Note: The same book has two titles,In Praise of Slowness is the title in the United States. In Praise of Slow is the title everywhere else • and Mike hails from Australia. Click for More Information.)


I recently read your series of Provisions on Listening and they made me weep Click. It was life-changing learning for me, answering many questions about holes in myself and my life! Thank you!



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #430: Choose Your Speed

Laser Provision


Are you stuck in fast forward? Many of us find ourselves rushing from one thing to the next, from one day to the next. With so much happening, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and unsatisfied. Do you ever wonder if there is more to it? Perhaps it’s time to mix things up. Perhaps it’s time to choose your speed for good.

LifeTrek Provision

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with performance and speed. Growing up, I remember my father’s passion for cars. One year in the mid 1960’s he bought the famous Chevy Impala with those long, flowing lines and brilliant chrome work. In the 1960’s, he was one of the many people who would ‘hit the ton’, breaking the 100 miles per hour barrier, in a non-race car. It was no wonder I became fascinated with speed.

Most of my adult life I have driven the fastest car I could afford. Status was less important than sheer performance and speed. My last performance car broke my dad’s 1960’s record in third gear, blasting all the way up to 165 miles per hour (265 kph) in sixth gear. That kind of speed borders fear and excitement. On a racetrack, 165 miles per hour may be more appropriate but in the wrong environment it is extremely dangerous. Most importantly, it is not sustainable.

Top speed is never sustainable, on or off a racetrack. It almost took me to professional and personal burnout before I realised it was not sustainable. Instead of burnout, my fascination with top speed led me to research and implement Work / Life Balance. If there is one thing that inspired this series, it was top speed.

There is always a time and place for top speed. There is always a start and an end to top speed. That is what makes speed so effective. Race cars alternate between fast and slow to navigate corners and then go all out on the straights. Why should we be any different? But how much choice do we have?

Many of us are stuck at top speed. Our passion, energy, and enjoyment levels run low as we try to go faster and faster. We rush through our days and our lives multi-tasking and multi-peopling. We sometimes neglect giving time and a little slowness to things like strategic thinking, reflection, creativity and building deeper relationships. When we get like this, the quality of our life is going down fast. Our skills, creativity, and relationships that nourish our Work / Life Balance go stale.

And we are not alone. We live in a society that is obsessed with speed. Carl Honor•, the London-based foreign affairs journalist and best-selling author of In Praise of Slow, presents a case for using speed when and where it makes sense. He explains that slow can be seen as a dirty word in our culture, “But it’s actually about doing everything better, including working better and getting more pleasure out of things•I love speed, I love my cell phone and my very fast broadband connection•My problem was everything had become fast and that’s no way to go about life.” The things in life that makes us feel connected, happy and satisfied are the things we no longer have time for.

Running at top speed all the time, we become overworked and time-poor and, as Honor• adds, time-sick. Time-sickness, coined by Larry Dossey the American physician, means we are constantly stuck in deadline mode, afraid there is not enough time and that we must peddle faster to keep up. The result? Our Work / Life Balance is in constant catch-up mode. Honor• highlights that we often choose speed for no good reason. In short, we are addicted to speed.

Linda Stone, a former Microsoft and Apple executive, describes our addiction to speed by saying we live in an era of “continuous partial attention.” Many of us multi-task and multi-people by Instant-Messaging numerous people, while talking on our cell phone, while scanning emails. Exciting and instant as it can be, it leads us to skim the surface and fail to make meaningful and satisfying connections with the things and people in our lives that matter.

Stone says that we are entering a new era, where giving and receiving full attention is to feel alive, secure, truly connected and satisfied. Full Attention will become the new competitive advantage. It will attract business and personal relationships that will thrive on a commitment to full attention.

What makes us so addicted to speed and continuous partial attention? We fear that we might fall behind, get left behind, or even fail; We fear we will miss out on an opportunity, so we choose speed. But instead of enjoying the opportunities, Stone warns that in the end we become overstimulated, overwhelmed, and unfulfilled.

Honor• says we can bring some sanity into the equation by being aware of our tendency to choose speed all the time without any reason. Choosing to go faster and faster keeps us stuck at top speed and distracted from creative ideas for achieving a sense of balance. Two weeks ago, in the Provision Balance Yes with No Click, we talked about setting boundaries and being aware of what we take on.

Stone says we need to remove distractions and manage boundaries. Honor• explains that our 24/7 society actually invites us to remove our boundaries. Without boundaries our own greed and fear coax us into choosing speed every time, even though common sense tells us we are less productive when we are tired, stressed, unhappy or unhealthy.

Knowing this, we might ask ourselves, “Is anyone else doing anything about it?” Honor• reassures us that a growing number of people are doing something about. He introduces us to the Global Slow Movement, where people around the world are choosing to give things the “right” speed.

There is even a Global Slow Food Movement. Removing distractions and eating together for enjoyment is the European way. Not surprisingly, many European countries have the lowest obesity ratings and highest heart-health scores. Giving our food and each other our full attention at meal times is growing in popularity on a global scale.

This is where traditional Time Management and the Global Slow Movement part ways and our Work / Life Balance stands to benefit at last. Time Management is an old technology that encourages us to get more done in less time. Whereas the Slow Movement is about doing fewer things so we can do them better and with more enjoyment. It is about people wanting more enjoyment from their lives by choosing the right speed, fast or slow, at the right time.

Carl Honor• was in Australia doing interviews on national Television recently. On the eve of his visit, I had my very own interview with the best-selling author and journalist. Honor• lives his words. He inspires by his own ability to choose his speed. In the lead up to our conversations, Honor• took a long, slow vacation. On his return, he answered hundreds of emails in detail, finished other work, and promptly jumped on a 22-hour plane ride to Australia, immediately appearing on national television. Choosing fast and slow when they made sense was the key to his effectiveness.

I asked Carl Honor• three questions that most of us face in trying to choose our speed in our Work / Life Balance equation. He was kind enough to give my questions his full attention. My first question was, “I want to slow down at work but fear that I’ll fail or someone else who’s willing to work faster will step up and take my job. I’ll then be working just as fast in a lower-paying job. How can I introduce ‘slow’ into my work?”

His answer was, “The taboo against slowness is so strong, particularly in the workplace, that you can’t just turn up one day and slam on the brakes. But it is essential • and possible • to slow things down at work. Doing so will allow you to stay healthy, happy, and be more productive and creative. How to start? I would suggest taking a lunch break away from your desk, start with a short one then work up to an hour, if possible.”

“Find moments in the day when you unplug from the technology. Switch off the phones and email and allow yourself some uninterrupted think time. Away from the office, resist the temptation to be reachable all the time. Find moments when you can be off the grid. Don’t become a slow extremist’the key thing is to avoid getting stuck in fast forward. It’s about working at the right speed.”

Next, I asked “I’d like to go slower, but I have so many responsibilities. Working, picking up kids, running a house, and paying bills. How can I bring some ‘slow’ into my life when there is no time?”

Honor• answered, “The first thing to realise is that there is often more time than we think. We’re constantly bombarded by the message that time is scarce and we have to rush just to keep up. Sometimes this becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. We rush even when we don’t need to. But there is another side to this: Most of us are trying to cram too many things into our schedules • work, extracurriculars for the kids, leisure pursuits, TV, etc.”

“A first step is to look at all the stuff you’re trying to do, put it in a list from most to least important, and start cutting from the bottom. Most of us are amazed by how easy it is to find things to let go. I know I was. I used to think that all the things I did were essential and that I couldn’t drop any of them. Rubbish. I found things to let go. It’s about working out what’s important and putting quality ahead of quantity.”

My last question was, “As an employer with client deadlines, how am I supposed to let my people slow down?”

Honor• answered, “You have to meet deadlines, obviously, but every business can find ways to allow staff to slow down. And often they find that, ironically, staff then work more efficiently and meet deadlines earlier. Companies need to be brave to break out of the mindset that says if you put on the brakes you’re roadkill. Once they get over the psychological hump, they find it surprisingly easy • and helpful • to allow their staff to slow down.”

“How? Encouraging lunch breaks; offering quiet rooms for chilling out; email-free days; on-site yoga and massage; letting staff control their own hours, swap income for more time off and take sabbaticals. Many companies are doing these things now and finding that it pays off in higher productivity and staff retention.”

Pondering Honor•’s advice, we realise we also need to get over our own psychological hump. Our fear of being left behind, failing or missing out is not always as real as it seems. Honor• reminds us of our choice to control the rhythms of our own life. Choosing our speed is a personal Work / Life Balance skill that we apply in ways that suit us. Choose your Speed is not just about speed, it is about choice.

I made a choice recently and traded my performance car for a Four-Wheel Drive SUV. Instead of missing the sights at high speed, I have seen things only accessible by charter flight or SUV. Driving on isolated beaches, I have seen whales bursting through waves, and from deep inside lush rain forests I have waded in clear blue lakes. I still love speed and performance, but it’s all a matter of choice. Choosing our speed, when and where it makes sense, will immediately enhance our Work / Life Balance.

Coaching Inquiries: How often do you rush when you don’t have to? Where could you slow down? Where could you speed up? What choices could you make in your use of speed? What distractions could you let go of?

This Provision, and each Provision in our series on Work / Life Balance, is written by Michael J. Alafaci of www.SolutionMaps.com • Copyright Solution Maps 2005. All rights reserved. You can contact Mike by email or phone, in Australia, at 61-7-3311-5361.

If you or your company would like to talk with LifeTrek about coaching, Email Us or use theContact Form at our Website to arrange a complimentary conversation.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, Email Bob or use our online Feedback Form..


We read LifeTrek Provisions here in New Zealand, and we do miss Bob’s weekly reflections. But his substitute from right next door in Australia is really pretty good! What a team you guys are building up. Well done.


I am a new coach and two of my “practice” clients lived in New Orleans. Is the offer of free coaching available to them for a “What next?” session? What’s the best way to hook them up with you folks if the offer still stands? (Ed. Note: The offer stands until further notice. Click Here to submit a request for them or Email Erika for more information.)



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #429: Balance Your Energy

Laser Provision


When it comes to Work / Life Balance there’s no more important exchange than the energy exchange. When too much energy goes out, without replenishment, we burn out. When too much stays put, without engagement, we rust out. Striking the perfect balance between effort and rest, stress and recovery, is the secret to sustained satisfaction and performance in life and work. Fortunately, making this balance a habit is not as hard as it sounds. Read on to learn how!

LifeTrek Provision

If there is one thing we should expect from our ideal Work / Life Balance, it is better performance. The kind of performance that gives us that satisfied, productive, job-well-done, ready-for-the-next-challenge feeling.

In past issues, we have considered how our performance can be enhanced by things like: discarding old mindsets that hold us back; finding passion and purpose by naming what we want; clearing things that weigh us down; and choosing what is really important by balancing our “Yeses” and “No’s”. In this issue, we consider how to enhance our performance by balancing our energy.

In The Making of a Corporate Athlete, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz discuss how their work with world-class athletes was applied to corporate executives. In today’s world of rapid change and unprecedented demands, they called top performing executives “corporate athletes”. Their approach applies to all of us whether or not we are corporate executives, because our performance stands to benefit.

Loehr and Schwartz suggest that if we want to perform at our highest levels over the long-term, we need to train in the same systematic way that world-class athletes do. Their ideas were tested on thousands of people resulting in dramatic improvements to their performance in work and life generally.

They did this by helping individuals increase their capacity for endurance, strength, flexibility, self-control, and focus. Increasing capacity in these areas allows us to fully engage our talents and skills to create sustained high performance over the long-term, creating what Loehr and Schwartz call the Ideal Performance State.

Unlike athletes, many of us can still perform successfully if we are unfit, eat poorly, or lack self-control and balance in our rest and focus. However, we cannot perform at our full potential. And eventually we will incur a cost to ourselves, our families and to the organisations or people we serve.

Further to this, most of us ask more of ourselves than Athletes do. Professional athletes spend most of their time practicing and only a small percentage of their time competing. In contrast, most of us spend almost no time training and most of our time performing for long periods, on demand and without many breaks.

Through their research in sports science, Loehr and Schwartz make the case that reaching and maintaining our Ideal Performance State requires an ability to mobilise energy on demand. This requires us to enter a rhythm of expenditure and renewal. They explain that the real enemy of high performance is not stress, as this can actually cause growth. The problem is a shortfall in disciplined and regular recovery.

Most of us can recognise that stress without recovery reduces our energy reserves and leads to burnout, but how do we handle the natural urge to work harder and faster? We can start by consciously creating new habits that get us into the rhythm of alternating between stress and recovery. Many of us are creatures of habit and the great thing about habits is that they work automatically, either for us or against us. With a bit of practice upfront, we can create habits that automatically work for us to balance our energy.

By engaging in habits that alternate between stress and recovery, we discover the secret to sustained high performance, even under pressure. We can operate at our highest levels of performance and be stronger, more satisfied, healthier, and more excited about the next challenge we face.

Most professional athletes use habits like these to sustain high performance while under pressure. Tiger Woods often tugs at the shoulder of his polo shirt to shift his focus. Tiger’s shirts are all custom-made, so it’s unlikely they are a bad fit • he does it intentionally to renew his focus. Tennis players adjust their strings between points as a habit to induce brief recovery. Loehr and Schwartz hooked players up to heart-rate monitors and were astonished to find a drop in heat-rate while performing habits of recovery in between points.

In contrast players who lacked consistent recovery habits tended to expend too much energy without recovery. Regardless of their talent, they became more frustrated, anxious, and distracted from their ability to generate high levels of performance.

The same is true for each of us. We can all benefit from developing our own version of adjusting the strings on our tennis racquet between points. The common element is to balance energy expenditure and recovery. To enter the professional league, the idea is to build automatic recovery habits in our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual areas as they are all interdependent.

Creating physical habits of recovery builds our physical endurance. Without this we cannot operate at our peak mental and emotional levels. We can start by doing the basic things we already know like choosing to eat well, maintaining good sleep patterns, taking regular breaks every 90 minutes, and keeping fit. There is an abundance of fresh ideas in this area that we can choose from to start developing some new habits.

To create new habits on the mental and emotional levels, we can start by recognising when we are engaging in obsessive thinking and worrying. By taking a break from these engagements, before coming back to them, we often find solutions to frustrating problems.

One way of shifting out of obsessive thinking and worrying is to simply step back and observe ourself doing it without applying any judgement. Ruminating on negative emotions can be hard work, whereas engaging positive emotions has the opposite effect. Our close relationships can be great sources of positive emotions • increasing rather than cutting back here is a great renewal habit. Recovery of the mental and emotional levels gives us greater ability to focus.

Creating spiritual habits of recovery can be as simple as taking time out to reflect and see the bigger picture. We might take a walk, not thinking about anything in particular, or enjoy taking a slow, deep breath by noticing how it feels. Other activities might include meditation or Yoga, or just taking a few seconds to notice something in nature like a tree outside the office window. The idea is to create automatic habits that break the constant need to react to the most pressing demand. Spiritual recovery connects us with our source of inspiration, clarity, great ideas, and renewed endurance.

We must give ourselves permission to renew our energy, regardless of our roles in life. At work for example, one way to balance energy is to focus on results not hours. Many companies are throwing out the clock and having people sign on for results. They don’t expect people to hang around so they can be seen, but they do expect results. And getting results requires consistent recovery habits, just like professional athletes use.

It can be challenging to create new habits, especially for busy people or top performers, but then who doesn’t like a challenge if they stand to benefit? Try enlisting the help of someone else like a personal trainer, a professional coach, a friend, or a family member until it becomes habit. Give yourself permission and then add a healthy dose of commitment.

Having the athlete-like self-control and discipline to balance our energy is at the core of achieving our ideal Work / Life Balance. It turns hard work into meaningful achievement, and is the secret to sustained satisfaction and performance.

Loehr and Schwartz’s Corporate Athlete ideas give us good reason to create such habits, “When people feel strong and resilient • physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually • they perform better, with more passion, for longer. They win, their families win, and the corporations that employ them win.”

Coaching Inquiries: How often do you expend too much energy without recovery? Would you like help creating habits that balance your energy? How could you renew and recover your vital energy more often? What habits could you create to work automatically for you? How could you start balancing your energy more regularly?

This Provision, and each Provision in our series on Work / Life Balance, is written by Michael J. Alafaci of www.SolutionMaps.com • Copyright Solution Maps 2005. All rights reserved. You can contact Mike by email or phone, in Australia, at 61-7-3311-5361.

If you or your company would like to talk with LifeTrek about coaching, Email Us or use theContact Form at our Website to arrange a complimentary conversation.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, Email Bob or use our online Feedback Form..


I was writing to another reader of LifeTrek Provisions this weekend and he commented that he thought Mike was writing to him, all the way from Australia! “Yes” and “No” • two so simple words, but such deep rooted feelings. I used to be really (and I mean really) involved with several charities. Charitable organizations can really suck you in and before you know it, that’s all you spend your time doing. I was even doing charity work (phone calls, fliers, plans, etc) at work.

For me, learning to say “no” when I really wanted to say “yes” was a big turning point and one that allowed me to reclaim a greater balance in my life. I also found that there are variations to “No.” Saying “No,” for example, may be the simple difference between being head coach and assistant coach; being fund raising chairman or leading a sub-group; taking the most demanding part in a play or a simple supporting / non-speaking role. Sometimes, I would make the tough call and say “no”, indicating that now was just not a good time, maybe next year. Less guilt and I’m still in the game. 


Mike’s Provision on balancing your ballast was a great piece on the importance of clearing clutter as a source of inspiration. As we get into the “back to school” spirit, it’s a great time to help our clients clean up some clutter in their lives, and to do the same for ourselves. I have forwarded this Provision to all the coaches I know. Thanks!


Your Pathway on Wellness Resources Click made me think of a free, weekly nutrition and health e-letter from the Washington Post called “The Lean Plate Club.” The weekly email includes lots of other related links as well. To sign up, just go to www.LeanPlateClub.com and click on the link to Sign Up Now for Email Newsletter. Note: interested users will have to register (for free) the first time with The Washington Post.


As a reader of LifeTrek Provisions in Nigeria, I have no doubt that I and some of your other subscribers in the ‘third world’ countries would be interested in responding to the needs of those directly and indirectly affected by Hurricane Katrina. Please kindly urge the American Red Cross to include the names of, at least all the countries (about 149 as of now) in their ‘appeal for donations format’ in which you have subscribers and their lives are being enriched through your write-ups. Thanks. (Ed. Note: You might try donating through the link at Amazon.com.)


I feel for those touched by the devastation that hit the Gulf Coast region and the entire USA. All of us are touched with feelings of being connected as Americans with feelings for fellow Americans. Your email mentioned a way to email LifeTrek Coaching for free coaching. Please, consider my offer to coach anyone within the USA. I have nationwide calling on my phone service, so I could make the calls. I graduated from the Coach U program and am a member of ICF, CoachVille, and IAC. Let me know, if I can be of service in your efforts to reach those needing or wanting coaching. I am not rich financially, but I can offer pro bono coaching with those you feel need/want/qualify for/ coaching around “Katrina” and the aftermath of current situations that exist. (Ed. Note: Thanks for the note. We will keep you in mind.)


I am trying to find my family. They lived in Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi. How can I find out if they are alive or dead? Please respond, thank you. (Ed. Note: I suggest that you visit the Family News Network maintained by the International Red Cross Click. Let us know if there are other ways we can be of assistance.) 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #428: Balance “Yes” With “No”

Laser Provision


There’s an ancient scripture that urges us to “Let our ‘Yes’ be yes and our ‘No’ be no, lest our language be used against us.” That’s important wisdom for anyone concerned about Work / Life Balance. Too often we fail to say what we mean and to mean what we say. Too often we fail to set strong, healthy, and appropriate boundaries around our work and life. But as this Provision makes clear, it doesn’t have to be that way! We really can balance “Yes” with “No.”

LifeTrek Provision

Do you find it hard to say “No” sometimes? Do you ever quietly resent saying “Yes”? Work / Life Balance is not only about managing our time. It’s about managing our passion, energy, and enjoyment across the things that matter. It starts with the choices we make about where we spend our valuable resources. Are you choosing to spend yours on unnecessary things?

Balancing “Yes” with “No” is the one thing that can make or break your Work / Life Balance. And if there is one thing that brings immediate benefit, this is it. Balancing “Yes” with “No” is about choosing our “No’s” and “Yeses” carefully and more often, with less guilt and more purpose.

Every time we say “Yes” to one thing, we automatically say “No” to something else. For example, saying “Yes” to extra work hours may be saying “No” to family or personal commitments. Saying “No” to junk food today is saying “Yes” to being healthy. Saying “No” gives meaning and respect to our “Yeses”. Saying “Yes” gives support and strength to our “No’s”.

Balancing “Yes” with “No” can be difficult at first. Saying “No” can sometimes meet with guilt, anger, and resistance from others. Before we explore this resistance, let’s consider the cost of not saying “No” when we need to. Think how you feel, even briefly, when your life doesn’t seem like yours anymore, when you are resentful, tired, anxious, or even overwhelmed. At these times it is difficult to spend any of our energy, passion, or enjoyment on others let alone on ourselves. We have temporarily lost balance. Getting it back starts with making a choice.

Balancing “Yes” with “No” is one of the most basic choices we get to make. It is the foundation of setting basic boundaries in our life. Being able to set basic boundaries helps us to actively manage our ideal Work / Life Balance. We apply boundaries with others and with ourselves.

Boundaries allow us to participate when it is appropriate and to maintain our distance when it is not appropriate or harmful to us. They are not a weapon to be used against others but are merely a property line showing who is responsible for what.

Boundaries are sometimes flexible, especially in today’s rapidly changing world, full of competing demands and desires. One week we may welcome long work hours. The next week, long hours may not be acceptable due to other commitments. Being rigid in a constantly shifting environment can mean being constantly out of balance.

I have worked with people in the USA and Australia who would excuse themselves from a meeting at 3 pm to go see their son play soccer. The next week those same people willingly traveled away from home on business, working long hours and going without seeing their children. These people actively balanced “Yes” with “No”. They chose to balance their passion, energy and excitement across the people and areas of their lives that matter.

Learning to create balance protects us from accidentally creating habits that are hard to break, like choosing to always work long hours. John Dryden, the 17th century English poet once said, “We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.”

Sometimes we don’t get a choice. And sometimes we may be incorrectly assuming we have no choice, or we might be following an old mindset (Issue #1 Stop Digging) such as feeling automatically guilty about saying “No”. The only way to find out if we have a choice is to ask for what we want, or to say “Yes” occasionally to what we want and no to what we don’t.

The difference will be less resentment and more energy for things that matter. Balancing “Yes” with “No” encourages a healthy self-image and fosters better relationships. Being able to say “No” encourages trust and stability with others in our work and personal lives.

Here’s an example: Say you have two customers with the same deadline, but you cannot possibly get both done on time. If you don’t communicate a boundary to one of your customers, you are guaranteed to disappoint them and lose their respect or business by being late. The customer feels cheated out of being able to negotiate a workable solution; you look bad, incompetent, or even untrustworthy and end up feeling resentful for trying in the first place!

Patti Breitman & Connie Hatch in their book How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty, warn us of a trap we set for ourselves by not being able to say “No”. They say, “It’s even worse when you’re so invested in being ‘nice’ that you say “Yes” to things and then follow through on them badly, half-heartedly, or not at all. By promising something you can’t deliver, you set a big trap for yourself and then walk right into it.”

Breitman and Hatch explain that being ‘invited’ is very different from being ‘expected’. Once we’ve said yes, we’re expected. Many of us set our own traps and walk into them because that’s what we are used to doing. Knowing this can help us start creating a better Work / Life Balance immediately.

We can start by giving ourselves permission to balance “Yes” with “No”, at least occasionally. Everyone encounters limits in what is possible. Balance is found in the acceptance of our own boundaries and those of others. That means also learning to take no for an answer. If we can take no for an answer, then we are living proof that others can and will survive a no from us.

Remember that we are practicing balance here. Sometimes we say “No” and sometimes we say “Yes”. Occasionally, it’s okay to just say “No” to a client, boss, spouse, child, or friend • it’s our basic choice and it can actually be enjoyable!

There are many ways to experiment. Sometimes before we say “No” to a direct request, it pays to ask for more details. In some cases, we won’t even have to say “No” because the request turns out to be a false deadline that can be negotiated and agreed to suit both people.

It is important to ponder the reasonableness of the request. Remember that people are sometimes caught up in their needs and forget to consider whether a request is in our best interests. This is natural and it really is our job to decide what our best interests are (Issue #2 Name Your Claim) and then to protect them.

Saying “No” comes out more naturally when we have already said yes to something that matters. And by simply realising that other people will try and push back when we say “No”, the surprise is taken out of their attempts to resist our no — at least for us that is! The next step is to help others to catch up.

If others are disappointed, they need to own their disappointment. It’s on their side of the property line. As adults, we get to choose whether we think our no is fair. Scott Adams’ Dilbert character helps us see the funny side of this in a Work / Life Balance comic where the tiny Catbert tells Dilbert that if he doesn’t like it he should, “Take a pill, crybaby!” Catbert has no problem reminding Dilbert to own his disappointment. His delivery could use some finesse though.

If people persist with an unreasonable request, we can simply repeat our original no until they come to terms with it. There’s no need to elaborate, it’s not a negotiation, “No. I can’t get it to you by then. I’d really like to but I can’t.” No doesn’t always mean ‘never in your life!’ We can say “No” for now, but invite people to ask us again next time, “I can’t help you this time (or this week or today etc.), but please ask me again next time (or next week or tomorrow etc.) and I’ll see if I can help then.”

But what if we simply cannot say “No” because we have no choice? We can try giving a conditional yes like, “I can get you the first two reports by tomorrow, but not the last one”. Another way is to explain the consequences of giving a complete yes, “If I agree to do this, I can’t give you my time on Monday • which would you prefer?”

Start practicing on something easy. Say “No” to a Telemarketer you don’t want to buy from. Be direct and respectful. Switch off your phone or email while you work with an important project, person, or issue. Say “No” in a store to a request for your phone number • you won’t have to say “No” to the Telemarketer next week! Try it on yourself occasionally. Have fun. If you say “No”, listen for the silent and matching yes. If you say “Yes”, listen for the silent no.

Balancing “Yes” with “No” will get easier. Saying “Yes” to the things that matter and no to the things that don’t can become a comfortable habit. When that happens, you have a skill that will help create enduring Work / Life Balance, greater performance and happiness. Try balancing “Yes” with “No” a few extra times this week.

Coaching Inquiries: How could you balance “Yes” with “No” more often? Where could you start on something or someone easy? How could you bring clarity and style into saying “No”? What could you say “Yes” to more often? Which situations and people do you struggle with when balancing “Yes” with “No”?

This Provision, and each Provision in our series on Work / Life Balance, is written by Michael J. Alafaci of www.SolutionMaps.com • Copyright Solution Maps 2005. All rights reserved. You can contact Mike by email or phone, in Australia, at 61-7-3311-5361.

If you or your company would like to talk with LifeTrek about coaching, Email Us or use theContact Form at our Website to arrange a complimentary conversation.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, Email Bob or use our online Feedback Form..


Thank you for sending out your Hurricane Coaching Offer. I have been sitting in front of the TV for way too long watching all the devastation and feeling helpless…donations can be made but at this point they feel small in the big picture. I had wondered and thought about what and how all of you were doing.


Thanks for the inspiration and challenge of your Hurricane Coaching Offer! Many people here would like to see if the church and/or individuals in the church could adopt some of the refugee families. If that happens, we’ll know where to turn for coaching.


Your poem, “Passion,” is inspirational. I too want to live. Today is the first day of the best day of my life. No more worrying about yesterday because it’s over. I look forward to today and tomorrow. Thank you for helping me to remember that. I will be on the treadmill after work. 


I am interested in your coaching grab-bag program. How do I sign up? (Ed. Note: Thanks for the new designation! To get the process started, visit CoachingComplete.com



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Mobile: www.LifeTrekMobile.com
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services